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Human gut Bacteroidetes can utilize yeast mannan through a selfish mechanism

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Fiona Cuskin, Dr Elisabeth Lowe, Dr Max Temple, Dr Alan Cartmell, Dr Artur Rogowski, Dr Rui Chen, Emeritus Professor Harry Gilbert



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


Yeasts, which have been a component of the human diet for at least 7,000 years, possess an elaborate cell wall alpha-mannan. The influence of yeast mannan on the ecology of the human microbiota is unknown. Here we show that yeast alpha-mannan is a viable food source for the Gram-negative bacterium Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, a dominant member of the microbiota. Detailed biochemical analysis and targeted gene disruption studies support a model whereby limited cleavage of alpha-mannan on the surface generates large oligosaccharides that are subsequently depolymerized to mannose by the action of periplasmic enzymes. Co-culturing studies showed that metabolism of yeast mannan by B. thetaiotaomicron presents a 'selfish' model for the catabolism of this difficult to breakdown polysaccharide. Genomic comparison with B. thetaiotaomicron in conjunction with cell culture studies show that a cohort of highly successful members of the microbiota has evolved to consume sterically-restricted yeast glycans, an adaptation that may reflect the incorporation of eukaryotic microorganisms into the human diet.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Cuskin F, Lowe EC, Temple MJ, Zhu YP, Cameron EA, Pudlo NA, Porter NT, Urs K, Thompson AJ, Cartmell A, Rogowski A, Hamilton BS, Chen R, Tolbert TJ, Piens K, Bracke D, Vervecken W, Hakki Z, Speciale G, Munoz-Munoz JL, Day A, Pena MJ, McLean R, Suits MD, Boraston AB, Atherly T, Ziemer CJ, Williams SJ, Davies GJ, Abbott DW, Martens EC, Gilbert HJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Nature

Year: 2015

Volume: 517

Issue: 7533

Pages: 165-169

Print publication date: 08/01/2015

Online publication date: 07/01/2015

Acceptance date: 22/10/2014

Date deposited: 12/07/2016

ISSN (print): 0028-0836

ISSN (electronic): 1476-4687

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/nature13995


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Funder referenceFunder name
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Australian Research Council
US Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Research Center (BESC) - Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the DOE Office of Science
Mizutani Foundation
University of Michigan Medical School Host Microbiome Initiative
322820European Research Council
GM090080National Institutes of Health
MOP-68913Canadian Institute of Health Research operating grant
WT097907AIAWellcome Trust